The F.G. Hall Laboratory
The eight interconnected hyper/hypobaric chambers have different capabilities ranging from ability to be pressurized to 3,600 fsw or evacuated to simulated altitude equivalent of 1 torr. Two wet pots are available for immersion or submersion studies. All eight chambers have multiple view ports, penetrator for biomedical sensors, communication systems, independent capabilities for pressurization and ventilation and fire suppression. Chambers D, F, and G have internal gas circulation systems for control of humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide. Pass through locks are available for introduction and removal of food, materials and medications. Communication from the console operators to the chamber occupants is by head microphone systems, a microphone-loud-speaker system and hydrophone system for the wet chambers, color television and by direct visualization through the chamber windows. Life support monitoring systems for chamber gases using gas chromatography are located in a laboratory close to the chambers. Additional direct gas monitoring systems such as infrared and polarographic monitors for environmental and respiratory gases are available at the chamber. Equipment for biomedical monitoring is located above the chambers on a platform with an area of some 1,800 square foot space. Monitoring is provided by coaxial electrical cables, which pass into each chamber.
Oxygen Transport Laboratory
The basic science aspects of the program are conducted primarily in well-equipped experimental laboratories of approximately 2,000 square feet, located on the ground floor of Duke South adjacent to the main facility. These laboratories, renovated in 1987, are dedicated to the study of cellular and molecular effects of oxygen and other respirable gases. The laboratory contains small animal pressure chambers, gas analysis equipment and other biomedical instrumentation such as HPLC, spectrophotometry, fluorometry, microdialysis and physiologic monitoring equipment. State-of-the-art facilities for protein biochemistry and studies of oxidative metabolism and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are available. Also, molecular biology, microscopy and biomedical electronics facilities are available. Facilities for large animal studies provide life support capabilities at the level of a clinical intensive care unit, animal preparation and surgical rooms. A notable strength of the laboratory is the ability to study oxidative metabolism in living tissues using reflectance fluorometry, differential spectrophotometry and NIR spectroscopy. Another research strength is the capability to assess the effects of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in whole organs, tissues, cells and subcellular organelles using molecular approaches.
Applied Physiology Program
Pressure physiology encompasses the physiology, medicine and epidemiology of unusual respiratory environments and the operational and engineering aspects that allow humans to live and work in these environments with reasonable safety. Including the fields of diving, compressed air work, mountain altitudes, and aerospace, pressure physiology involves the effects of gas composition and barometric pressure on the respiratory, circulatory, sensory, motor and nervous systems. These effects may be modulated by weightlessness or immersion in water under conditions of extreme temperature. The goals of pressure physiology are to understand the fundamental mechanisms which limit acute and chronic exposure to altered atmospheres and to develop procedures, strategies, and equipment, which will allow these exposures to be conducted safely.
The laboratory has attracted the interests of a wide variety of extramural scientists interested in problems of environmental physiology. These collaborative efforts have involved consultative, educational, clinical and basic science research programs. Investigators regularly visit from internationally recognized environmental centers in Canada, Japan, Norway, West Germany, Sweden and England. From within the United States, research collaborations have involved the National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, NASA and offshore diving industry. The results of this research are in use today helping to decrease the problems of divers as well as providing the rationale for clinical treatment of patients with diseases induced by gas bubbles, such as decompression sickness and arterial gas embolism. These studies also have provided a scientific foundation for the clinical practice of hyperbaric medicine.